The Patterson Foundation Invited Nonprofits to Explore Earned Income, Then Invited Them to "Opt-Out"

The Patterson Foundation Invited Nonprofits to Explore Earned Income, Then Invited Them to "Opt-Out"

Posted on October 17, 2018 by Michael Oxman, Managing Partner and Principal, No Margin, No Mission™
Earlier this year, The Patterson Foundation invited every nonprofit with an up-to-date profile in The Giving Partner to participate in a series of four informative, engaging, and interactive learning labs as part of Margin and Mission Ignition 2018—an innovative and impactful initiative designed to help nonprofits boost their entrepreneurial capacity, revenue, and mission impact.

Facilitated by the consultants from No Margin, No Mission for the fourth year running, the educational lab series (topics noted below) offered a unique opportunity for nonprofit teams— made up of the required group of leader, board member, and staffer— to participate in a comprehensive exploration of earned income:

• Lab #1: Nonprofit is a tax status, not a business model…why NPO’s should care about earned income

• Lab #2: Exploring earned-income possibilities…identifying opportunities to do good and do well

• Lab #3: Think your nonprofit is ready for earned income? 5 important success factors to consider before jumping in

• Lab #4: Business planning for nonprofits…developing a blueprint for earned-income success

As participants moved through the learning labs, they self-selected based on their interest in and desire to pursue an earned-income venture for their organization. To illustrate, lab #1 started with 102 attendees from 54 nonprofits, but with each subsequent lab, the numbers declined. By the end of lab #4, those remaining were best suited to advance to the next phase of the initiative, which offered intensive 1:1 consulting and technical assistance to develop and implement business plans for an entrepreneurial venture.

In TPF fashion, however, there was an unexpected twist introduced toward the end of the lab series. During lab #3 (and again at lab #4), an invitation was extended to all participants by Michael Corley, Senior Consultant for Administration, for an “opt-out” honorarium of $2,500 to any participating nonprofit that did not wish to advance to the intensive 1:1 consulting and technical assistance phase of the initiative.

The rationale for this unique and unconventional offer was to (1) encourage organizations that didn’t believe they were prepared to succeed at earned income to make the decision to “opt-out” AND feel good about their choice; and (2) recognize each organization’s substantial investment of time, energy, and resources required to attend and participate in the lab series.

Not surprisingly, a group of organizations decided to take advantage of TPF’s generous “opt-out” offer— for all the right reasons— and accepted the honorarium. Importantly, each of them also chose to continue on their learning journey by attending the remaining labs with their full team of participants.

Better yet, at the end of the learning labs, those who “opted-out” recognized the many tangible and intangible benefits that resulted from their participation in the Margin & Mission Ignition educational sessions and had these comments to share:
  • “While our organization didn’t continue with the earned-income business planning and implementation process, we benefited greatly from the learning labs. In fact, we have purchased the recommended LivePlan cloud-based business planning software to help guide efforts moving forward.”
  • “We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learned many valuable lessons during the lab series.”
  •  “There were many features of the learning labs that we benefitted from, including the entire team of knowledgeable mentors and support staff, the program design, the coaching calls, and the team building, to name a few.”

  • “The experience overall provided our organization with opportunities to grow and integrate new ideas to support long-term thrivability.”

  • “We are grateful that we were able to participate in the learning labs and are so honored to receive the opt-out honorarium.”

  • “It was a very worthwhile experience, and all our participants at the learning labs felt we learned a great deal about developing revenue-generating products and services for our nonprofit organization.”

Want to learn more about earned income and related topics?

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